By Michael Kaye
Ratchet & Clank (Review/Editorial)
Man, I feel sorry for video game fans who have been aching for a good movie based on their favorite properties. So far, that has yet to happen. At best, we've had some okay films like the Silent Hill franchise, some guilty pleasures like Mortal Kombat and the Angelina Jolie Tomb Raider movies. However, at worst we've had dreck like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat Annihilation, The Super Mario Bros. Movie and anything Uwe Boll touches. It is prophesized that 2016 will be the year that the curse will finally be lifted for video game adaptations, and the first one out of the gate is Ratchet & Clank, a film that just so happens to tie into the reboot of the first game for the PS4, which was released last week.
Ratchet & Clank tells the story of two unlikely heroes as they struggle to stop a vile alien named Chairman Drek from destroying every planet in the Solana Galaxy. When the two stumble upon a dangerous weapon capable of destroying entire planets, they must join forces with a team of colorful heroes called The Galactic Rangers in order to save the galaxy. Along the way they'll learn about heroism, friendship, and the importance of discovering one's own identity.
I'm sorry guys, but to do a full review of this movie seems like a stretch, as there's not a whole lot for me to chew on, especially coming at this from an outsider's point of view. So I'm gonna sum up my brief overall thoughts on the film, before I dive into a more interesting discussion on video game adaptations as a whole, and what it takes to make a truly great one.
Ratchet & Clank absolutely did not need to be released in theaters. Had this been a direct to video movie or a feature length television pilot, I'd probably give it some more leeway. But as a film, it's mildly entertaining at best. I do really like the world they've built, and there are a lot of fun and interesting characters. The voice cast is pretty incredible, with guys like James Arnold Taylor and David Kaye naturally reprising their roles as Rachet and Clank respectively. Having voiced the characters for well over a decade, these two absolutely crush it, and I'd love to see them get more feature film roles. Jim Ward voices Captain Qwark, the stereotypical hot shot hero, who's got his fair share of hilarious one-liners. My favorites of all the big name actors is definitely Paul Giamatti as one of the main antagonists Chairman Drek, and it sounds like he's having the time of his life playing this role. Other names in this cast include John Goodman, Rosario Dawson, Bella Thorne, and Sylvester Stallone of all people. Aside from the world building and character development, there's unfortunately nothing else that's noteworthy. Kevin Munroe does a solid job directing what's unfortunately a pretty safe and by the books hero's journey narrative, and while the dialogue can sometimes be fun with its fair share of pop culture references and easter eggs, it's all "been there, done that" in terms of the sci-fi genre. Overall, if you're a super hardcore fan of the franchise, go out and support this movie. But if you're a newcomer, you don't have to see this in theaters, though if you do you won't regret it.
And now that we took care of that business, let's talk about video game adaptations, and what they need to do in order to achieve greatness. Before we begin, it's important to realize that the reason why so many video games are being adapted into other mediums is because that is currently a booming industry, in some ways doing better than any other medium.
First off, it's important for the people making these adaptations to have passion for the source material, or at the very least, show some respect for the medium. Duncan Jones is probably the best example of this. He's not just some hired gun, but a hardcore fan of the world of Warcraft. I've been hearing about this movie for about 3 or 4 years, but the reason why I'm not growing impatient at the fact that this should have been made sooner, when the game was at the height of its popularity, is because I want the people involved to take their time and really flesh out the characters and their environment. And if this movie is a hit, imagine how wide the flood gates will burst open for other properties of this magnitude!
Second, you need to hire genuinely talented filmmakers to give that property credibility. Assassin's Creed has an incredible cast and crew. Justin Kurzel, hot off of his take on Macbeth, is directing the film and he's reunited with stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, with Jeremy Irons and Brendan Gleeson joining the cast as well. Fassbender is also producing the film, and while at first he had never played any of the games, he understood that he needed to do his research in order to make the best movie possibile, and one that fits in comfortably within continuity.
Finally, and this is probably the most important point, think outside the box. While I do believe that film is the most superior form of storytelling, it's not the end all be all. Even within the medium, you can theoretically make just as good of a live action movie as you can in animation, and with today's advancements in technology, there is no excuse why Nintendo can't put out a fantastic Legend of Zelda movie, or a reboot of Super Mario Bros. Now on the TV side of things, this is probably where video games have had the most success. I'm a 90's kid, so I grew up with some great animated shows like Earthworm Jim and Sonic SatAM, and both shows did a great job embracing the imagination and world building of the games and translating that into a new medium.
So that was my take on video game adaptations and how they can achieve greatness. Unfortunately, Ratchet & Clank barely checked off these boxes, but it's on the right path. Here's to hoping that Warcraft and Assassin's Creed and finally lift that curse for good.
Now I wanna hear from you guys! Have you seen Ratchet & Clank, and what are your keys to success for video game adaptations? Drop your thoughts in the comments below, and as always, stay tuned for more content coming your way!